Less than a month ahead of midterm elections, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows President Obama’s approval ratings at the lowest level of his presidency, and the Democratic Party’s popularity at its weakest point in 30 years.
While this is certainly bad news for Democrats, it doesn't necessarily spell defeat in November, say political analysts. More on that a little later.
Some 40 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance; among independents, the number is even lower, 33 percent. And 51 percent of Americans view the Democratic Party unfavorably, its weakest number in three decades of polling.
“It’s a little surprising,” says Michael McDonald, a political science professor at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., of the poll findings.
The poll reveals Americans’ dissatisfaction about the state of the country and the political leadership in Washington. Two in three say the country is seriously off-track, according to the Washington Post.
Americans are dissatisfied with Obama’s handling of immigration, international affairs and terrorism, among other issues.
Perhaps most concerning to Democrats are poll results showing an enthusiastic Republican voter base prepared to turn out for midterm elections and a relatively lackluster Democratic base. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans say they are certain to vote, compared with 63 percent of Democrats.
Does that signal another Republican sweep at next month’s midterms?
“What’s unusual about this election compared to others is that the American people don’t have that high an opinion of Republicans either,” says McDonald.
In fact, Republican Party approval ratings are even lower than their Democratic counterparts – just 33 percent.
“It doesn’t look to be a wave election like 2010,” says McDonald. “Not an anti-Obama wave, if anything, it may be an anti-incumbent wave.”
Still, many Democratic candidates have tried to distance themselves from the president and his policies.
“There’s a reason the president isn’t often seen on the campaign trail,” writes Time’s Jay Newton-Small in an article titled, “Vulnerable Democrats run away from Obama.”
In one famous example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to say whether she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
And there’s a reason Obama makes some Democratic candidates squirm.
Midterm elections are typically a referendum on the party in power, and the president’s party can usually expect to lose seats.
“[P]residential approval ratings…and views that the country’s on the right track…highly correlate with midterm gains or losses for the party in power,” reports ABC News in a piece on the latest poll findings.
Adds McDonald, “Some of the models that look at estimates of loss of house seats look at presidential approval ratings as one indicator for that loss. It is statistically significant.”
What does that mean for the president’s party on Nov. 4?
Consider this: Obama’s approval rating is similar to that of George W. Bush’s heading into the 2006 midterms, when Republicans lost 30 seats.